Plan for the Future

Last Updated 11/14/2017

If you don't qualify for a way to stay now, you can prepare for the future. The law or your situation may change. A person living in the U.S. without legal immigration status can:

            1. save important documents;

            2. avoid problems with the law; and

            3. know their rights if they are arrested by immigration or the police.

Save documents that may help you qualify for a way to stay in the future. You may have to prove identity, age, relationships, arrival and residency in the U.S., staying out of trouble with the law, learning English, and more. Keep family documents such as birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates in a safe place. Save a few key documents that prove living here, like school, medical, work, tax, and rent or utility records.

Avoid or fix legal problems, to protect future ways to stay. It's easier to qualify if you don't have these problems: missed immigration court dates or old deportation orders, untrue applications or fake documents, drunk driving or other arrests or convictions. To check your immigration records or criminal history, you can do a FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) records search. A legal advocate can help find a record; and explain the risks of applying for a way to stay. Sometimes a lawyer can help clean up a record.

In some cases, it helps to have proof about following the rules, contributing to the community, and making a life here. Examples: file taxes, pay child support, register for Selective Service. Volunteer work can show that a person is a good member of the community. Learning English or getting an education sometimes helps a person qualify for a way to stay.

Finally, everyone should know about legal rights. People living in the U.S. have legal rights, even if they are undocumented. Legal rights are in the U.S. Constitution and laws to protect us from bad or unfair treatment by the government. You can avoid some immigration problems by knowing and protecting those rights.

Get Ready

These are steps to prepare for a way to stay:

  • Save documents that prove who you are, when you were born, when you came to the U.S. and when you have lived here;
  • Keep a list of your addresses and the the dates when you moved;
  • File taxes. Get an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) if you don't have a valid Social Security Number;
  • Register for Selective Service, if you are a male;
  • Avoid bad information from notarios or others who are not qualified to give legal advice;
  • If you have immigration or criminal problems, arrests, court orders, or convictions, check with a legal advocate for a way to fix the problems;
  • If you have time, learn English, take classes, or volunteer in the community;
  • If you pay child support, keep up with your payments;
  • Know your rights and protect your future.